Sparkling Wine – Cava, Prosecco, and Champagne
It’s been a whirlwind of a couple of weeks. I spent Christmas in Scotland, took a 10 hour train from Glasgow to Brighton (and didn’t actually make it there), spent New Year’s with an oceanfront view, and moved to Denmark. It’s been filled with family and friends, and of course, wine.
But after celebrating New Years with friends that were well aware of my love for wine, I can honestly say that I am completely sick of Prosecco, Cava, Champagne, the works. All those bubbles did not sit well with me after we were 2 bottles in and my head was throbbing the next day. We started with Cave des Rois Prosecco, a light, peachy Prosecco with notes of clementine and a zippy finish of grapefruit. It was a great compliment to our spicy Indian food by bringing out the complexity of flavors found in the cuisine with its lively bubbles.
We enjoyed many more glasses throughout the night and the question came up, “What’s the difference between Prosecco and Champagne?” I could give a short answer, but I was not entirely sure on the exact differences, so I decided to find out.
For me, one of the most important differences is where it comes from. Champagne is from (believe it or not) Champagne, France. That California Champagne you’re enjoying? Yeah, that’s a sparkling wine, not Champagne and there have been many lawsuits over it throughout the years. Just this past year, a story arose about the threat of a lawsuit against Apple if they were to release a “Champagne” colored iPhone.
Prosecco is a wine made in Veneto and Friuli in the Northwestern part of Italy. The name derives from the small village of Prosecco where the drink may have originated. Cava is a Spanish wine that may come from 8 different regions, however most is produced in Catalonia.
Another huge difference is the grape used to make each wine. Champagne can be white or rosé and is made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or Pinot Meunier. Cava can also be white or rosé, but is made from the native Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel-lo grapes. Prosecco is only found as a white wine made from Glera grapes. The different grapes create very different flavors. Whereas Champagne will generally be richer and more complex, Cava and Prosecco both have lighter, fruitier flavors, with Prosecco being closer to Champagne than Cava.
To create the effervescence in wine, a secondary fermentation must take place. This can happen in two different ways which sets Champagne apart from Cava and Prosecco. With Champagne, the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle. The Méthode Champanoise involves adding yeast and extra sugar to the bottle before it is sealed. Depending on the amount of sugar added, the taste can vary from extremely dry (extra brut) to very sweet (doux).
The secondary fermentation in Cava and Prosecco follows the Charmat Method in which it occurs in large vats with pressure and temperature controls to ensure the proper amount of fizz remains in the wine after yeast and sugar is added. A third technique used today is simply the injection of carbon dioxide just as in soft drinks. This is not permitted with Cava or Prosecco.
Almost just as important as anything else, especially for us college-aged kids, is the price. Champagne is much more expensive than either Prosecco or Cava and not only because of its esteem as many would think. Champagne is also more expensive to produce because the Champagne Method is less efficient and more time consuming. Whereas decent Champagne will generally be above $30, you can find good Prosecco or Cava for under $20.
So although I need a break from the bubbly stuff, there is a lot of sparkling wine for you to explore in 2014 such as Cremant d’Alsace, Asti, Trento, Vouvray, and Sekt as well as the famous Cava, Prosecco, and Champagne.